The last thing I thought I thought I’d be writing is any sort of defense of Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. I am on the record as not being a fan of the man they call Army.
The Blues, under Armstrong have had issues and, quite frankly, have failed to address them. Think back to the summer of 2013 when everyone was screaming "The Blues need offense!" Armstrong’s response was to sign Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre and Brenden Morrow. Dumpster diving at its finest. Then you look at, just months later, he made the team five percent better by dealing for Ryan Miller. Then he signed Steve Ott to a deal that paid him about $4 million too much.
So, yeah, Armstrong’s tenure has it’s share of black marks. But, fellow fans, this summer, so far, hasn’t been that bad. Let’s look at the deals made and not made.
OK so this is going to start not well for ole Army. I can’t really defend this deal, to be honest. Elliott’s value was huge — he was a No. 1 goalie on a $2.5 million contract. The fact that Armstrong dealt him for a 2nd round pick, is less than stellar.
The way you feel about this deal is basically dependent on how you feel about Jake Allen. I’m not a huge fan so I think it’s a downgrade to go from 40 games of Elliott to 60 games of Allen. Not a great start. The Blues did get some cap savings, but I’d still would rather ride out the Allen/Elliott Era and go into next summer with both as free agents. Pick one then.
The Shattenkirk situation has been handled poorly and smartly and poorly at the same damn time.
The simple fact is that Shattenkirk is signed for one more year on a very good deal for the Blues. The reasons to trade him are: 1) Cap Space 2) Improve elsewhere. Otherwise, if you don’t deal him, you’re left with a very good player on a very good deal.
Armstrong screwed up by being so public about trades and talking about his asks. Shattenkirk was, in his mind and the mind of fans, already shipped out. Look at Shea Weber in Nashville. Guys can get traded without crazy rumors — it literally happened once with Shattenkirk. For Armstrong to talk at the draft and have all these rumors come out that he asked for Dylan Larkin or Taylor Hall, frankly, it’s not a good look.
The best time to trade Shattenkirk would have been at the draft. Get some picks, get some prospects or get an upgrade. At the very least, prior to the draft, the Blues would know exactly where they would stand — July 1st would have been a lot different had his cap hit been gone.
But, since he wasn’t traded, the Blues get to keep him. They get another prime year out of him. It doesn’t put too much pressure on Colton Parayko and means the Blues don’t have to play Bob Bortuzzo 80 games a year.
In short: Thinking about trading him was a good idea. Keeping Shattenkirk is a good decision. The whole shopping part was a mess.
David Backes and Troy Brouwer
Two power forwards on the wrong side of 30 had career playoff years and wanted big money and long term. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Backes was getting 5X$6 the minute the ink dried on Ryan Kesler’s deal. The question was, who was going to be the dumb team to do it. It looked like Armstrong but he’d rather save that money and spend it on the future.
Backes is declining. He’s had head injuries of late. He’s getting banged up more and he’s lost a step or two. Ken Hitchcock was already playing him on right wing to ease his body and he was already a third liner. Paying him what more than Alexander Steen and what Jaden Schwartz is going to get for a third line role? Not the best plan.
Troy Brouwer is in the same boat. Dude was a good third line RW last year who had some big goals in the playoffs. But, and hear me out here, maybe he was helped by playing with Paul Stastny and the sublime Rob Fabbri?
Bad terms can kill your cap. Look at Jay Bouwmeester for example. It’s not a bad idea to let these guys walk. In fact, if the Blues had dealt Backes LAST summer (for say Troy Brouwer), we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
David Perron and Vladimir Sobotka
No. 57 is back and people are pissed. Here’s what people think they’re getting: A dude who doesn’t play defense and takes bad penalties. As if Backes and Brouwer didn’t almost combine for 200 minutes in the sin bin.
Perron isn’t perfect, but he’s 28, took a pay cut, and a positive possession player. He’s also the only right-handed shot in the top-9.
Here’s what the Blues are asking Perron: Play a top-9 role and score 30-40 points. I think he can do that.
Sobotka is overrated, but whatever. He’s still young(ish), he’s still a positive possession player and, quite frankly, as a LW/C he’s on a much different team than he was two years ago. Fabbri, Jori Lehtera and Paul Stastny all exist to push him down the lineup.
The Blues top-10 is Schwartz, Stastny, Tarasenko, Steen, Lehtera, Fabbri, Patrik Berglund, Perron and Dmitrij Jaskin/Sobotka. The Blues are asking for Fabbri to replace Backes, Perron to replace Fabbri and Jaskin/Sobotka to replace Brouwer. That doesn’t feel too out of line to me.
Schwartz will have to do more. Tarasenko is coming into his prime. Fabbri has to step up. Those are all true things, but I think that’s a reasonable expectation for the GM to make — that his young players grow and become better. This is their team now — even more so when Steen walks next year.
It’s a cap world and tough decisions have to be made. It sucks to lose Backes, a player who is very close in age to me who basically grew up as I did. It sucks to lose Brouwer, a player I liked a ton. But it’s a business.
Right now, this is the team the Blues have. It’s not perfect, but no team is. Can it miss the playoffs? Sure. If things break the wrong way. Can it get as far as last year’s team? I don’t see why not.
Armstrong screwed up before, but this summer hasn’t been as bad as it seems.